10 Directors to Watch
BIRTHPLACE: New York
PIC INSPIRATION: “‘A Clockwork Orange,’ ‘The Pawnbroker,’ ‘The Graduate,’ ‘Walkabout,’ ‘Salesman,’ to name a few.”
AGENT: Dawn Saltzman (Endeavor)
Miller is precise. He’s punctual, speaks carefully, and replies to emails promptly and thoroughly.
It’s exactly what you’d expect from the director of “Capote,” a meticulously crafted and pensive film that is currently setting the kudos season on fire.
“He’s obsessed with details. Every frame of that film is informed by Bennett Miller,” says Sony Pictures Classics co-chief Michael Barker, whose company released the film. “He reminds me of Hal Ashby — he knows how to give enough leeway to the actors and their environment.”
Miller’s 1998 debut, doc “The Cruise,” showed promise, but it wasn’t until recently that he stumbled upon the material that would become his first narrative feature. It came from an unexpected source, childhood friend Dan Futterman.
Futterman’s screenplay centers on Truman Capote’s struggle to write “In Cold Blood,” and Miller quickly realized it went much deeper than a mere biopic. “This is a portrait of a very public person and his very private experience as he takes a tragic course. It’s really much more the domain of novels. For me personally, that’s something that attracts me.”
The casting of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom Miller and Futterman had met in a 1984 summer theater class, eventually got the film financed and into production. “Phil was a real partner,” says the helmer. “We were making the same movie. And though it was difficult for him and hard on him, he was no less inclined to continue and push than I was — ever.”
Once on set, things gelled creatively, too.
“There was a vision for this film,” Miller says. “When you have that, obstacles go away.”
If there were difficulties, it had more to do with Miller’s desire to get things exactly right. He remembers times “when the gears were grinding and the clock was ticking, and Phil had his face in his hands, and I’d have to ask for an 18th or 19th take … But if you know what you want, you can have the guts to do that.”
Miller, who also directs commercials, remains mum on what’s next for him. But stay tuned.